The Man of Life Upright Poem by Thomas Campion Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “The Man of Life Upright” was written by Thomas Campion. The poem was published in 1601 in Thomas Campion’s book of songs named “A Booke of Ayres”. This poem was also included in his Two Bookes of Ayres, published in 1613 with a few variations in the text.  In this poem, the poet describes the life of an upright man and how his honest life helps in his life. The main themes behind the poem are the importance of honesty, uprightness, and virtuousness in life.

About the Poet:

Thomas Campion was an English composer, poet, and physician. He mainly wrote several lute songs and masques. In the Elizabethan era, he rose to prominence. In 1607, he wrote and published a masque[6] for the occasion of the marriage of Lord Hayes.In 1613, he wrote masques: The Lords’ Masque for the marriage of Princess Elizabeth a mosque for the marriage of the Earl of Somerset to the infamous Frances Howard, Countess of Essex


The poem “A Man of Life’s Upright” consists of six quatrains. Each quatrains consists of four lines. It has twenty four lines in total. The poet used ballad stanza form.


The poet Campion composed the poem using an iambic trimeter. Each lines consists of six syllables.The stress falls on the second syllable of each foot.


The tone of the poem is calm. The poet talks about how an upright person lives a happy life in a silent way.

Poem Analysis:

Stanza 1:

Lines 1-4:

The man of life upright,

 Whose chearfull minde is free

From waight of impious deedes,

 And yoake of vanitee,

The first line of the poem is the title itself. This indicates the subject matter of the poem. The poet says that an upright man’s mind is always cheerful.Nothing can make him unjoyful. His mind is free from vanity. According to the poet, an upright man is always happy and he is dominated by impious deeds which are bad for life.

Stanza 2:

Lines 5-8:

The man whose silent dayes

 In harmelesse joyes are spent:

Whom hopes cannot delude,

 Nor sorrowes discontent,

The second stanza says that a man who is free from evil ideas and intentions lives their life silently. He spends his life happily without harming anyone. According to the poet, an upright man never loses hope in sorrowful conditions. Because he knows that bad days are temporary and it too can pass.

Stanza 3:

Lines 9-12:

That man needes neyther towres,

 Nor armour for defence:

Nor vaults his guilt to shrowd

 From thunders violence;

The poet says an upright man does not need a “tower” or “armour” to protect him. Usually an ordinary man needs a “tower,” to protect his things and “armour” to protect himself from his enemies. But,an upright man doesn’t need them as he is not afraid of losing anything. On the other hand he doesn’t have enemies.A man who is true to his heart lives a truthful life. Thus he is not afraid of guilt.

Stanza 4:

Lines 13-16:

Hee onely can behold

 With unaffrighted eyes

The horrors of the deepe,

 And terrors of the Skies.

In the fourth stanza the poet talks about how an honest man lives bravely. He says an upright man can only notice the “horrors of deepe” and “terrors of the skies” with unafraid eyes. As an upright man is honest and truthful in his actions, he lives without fear.

Stanza 5:

Lines 17-20:

Thus, scorning all the cares

 That fate or fortune brings,

His Booke the Heav'ns hee makes,

 His wisedome heav'nly things.

The poet says the honest man is true to his heart. He doesn’t care about what fate brings to his life. He learns this knowledge from a book. Here, the book is referring to the heavenly substances. The poet says this man gets wisdom through heavenly things.

Stanza 6:

Lines 21-24:

Good thoughts his surest friends,

 His wealth a well-spent age,

The earth his sober Inne,

 And quiet pilgrimage.

The poet in the last stanza says that an upright man’s true friend is his good thoughts. Many people may come and leave. But the person living inside him stays with him forever. The poet says that his true experience in his honest life is the biggest wealth he has earned. The poet compares the earth to the inn. An upright man lives happily in the inn. An honest man considers a life journey as a pilgrimage. Only who is honest and true to his own self can take the pilgrimage with dedication.